Rigging madness

The question is not how to fish, but why you do it. The author and his fishing buddies do it out of necessity. It’s more important than life and death to them to escape the human world, step in to water and wave a stick. Left on the shore is their misery and worries. Standing in the water they find freedom, healing and occasionally a fish.

Battles are lost and won with tongue in cheek and always celebrated with mountains of cake and an endless stream of fresh espresso coffee. To the band of brothers it’s more important who you fish with than how big the fish is; except for the ones lost.

You may not learn a lot about catching more and bigger fish, but reading these stories is like holding a mirror up in front of yourself getting a little wiser. The small why is a big one.

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  • This artickel is written by Danish photojournalist Søren Skarby

When you’ve got a good friend you care for him making sure that he’s alright. The problem is that if you know someone pretty well it can be hard to see the small changes before things turn really bad. It crept in slowly and then got genuinely concerning when The Bricklayer started keeping on mumbling about rigs, hooks and some kind of rubber-like sand-eel laying in an ill stinking cure. As time past he became nearly delirious and to put insult to injury he was standing in the water almost shouting “A take, a take, another take, fish on”. The Bricklayer was catching an absurd amount of trout and that made me worry most of all.

It all began one evening in the beginning of summer when we as usual was laying in the last sun of the day, as usual drinking coffee and The Bricklayer was as usual complaining about the amount of fishermen standing in the channels water. And as usual I was telling him that they would go home when it turned dark and the good fishing started. If it sounds like the movie “Groundhog Day” you are pretty close, we’ve been there many times before. Humans need rituals like rites of passage to feel safe and comforted and what we were going through was our ritual before a nights fishing.

Things changed in a quite surprising way when a young man came wading in to the beach when it was almost dark. I was sure he was on his way home but to my bewilderment he was just going to unload his catch. It’s here it becomes really strange because in those days it was common to catch both trout and cod and he had some pretty good ones hanging in his belt. It was the mackerel that made us turn our heads, garfish yes, but mackerel! None of us has ever caught a mackerel at that spot and it made us more than curious. The easiest way to lure things out of a fisherman on the beach is inviting him for coffee and so we did. As he sat down we praised his catch handed him a cup and then started to talk about what kind of lures and flies we were using at this time of season.

The Bricklayer and I have through the years perfected this kind of interrogation and it’s much more efficient than water boarding, friendliness works. First you start talking about your own bait and then very slowly turn the conversation towards what’s tied to the end of your guests line. In other words we lure our victim out on ice that gets thinner and thinner and before he knows it he’s in deep water. It turned out that there was no reason to be cunning in any way he just showed his lure to us. It was so peculiar that we both turned on our headlamps to get a better look at it. The contraption was a rubber-like sand-eel tied in a rig with two small treble hooks he produced a jar with more sand-eels submerged in a cure. The young man had to answer a lot questions about the rig and how he used it. Obviously the air resistance and weight of just under a quarter of an ounce made casts with it pretty short. He looked at my fly-rod and asked if I was catching fish. I had to admit that it happened once in a while and then the young man replied that he was casting as long as I could with a fly-rod. That made sense and I could see that it sowed a seed in The Bricklayer and from that moment on his mental condition deteriorated.

In the weeks and months that followed The Bricklayer got more and more obsessed with the rig talking about improving it and how to use it in the best possible way. Every time we went fishing he spent an eternity rigging the sand eel. When he at last was entering the water the takes started almost immediately but to my joy, I didn’t show it, it was very often garfish messing the rig totally up. In the dark I could hear him curse the long fish that got a tendency to roll in the top of the water when hooked. Still the garfish wasn’t the only ones getting attracted by his lure and I tried to hide my jealousy when he hooked up with one trout after the other. The Bricklayer has always considered fly-fishing nerdy and complicated with all the stuff like weight of the line, casting, tapering and tying flies. One evening when I visited him he was sitting by a table tying rigs and it made me laugh out loud. With his big hands he was tying small precise knots making quit a few complaining sounds at the same time. The skin on his hands are like sandpaper from moving bricks and they got caught by the small sharp hooks again and again. When he produced some small rubber bands used for carp fishing the nerdiness reached a whole new level, carp fishing is the most complicated  way of fishing you can think of. The only mitigating aspect of his new found passion was that he began to consider the wind when we were discussing where to go fishing. Normally he wouldn’t care and tell me that I was sensitive and had to learn to cast in all kinds of wind with a fly-rod but suddenly he, with his new not so aerodynamic lure, was easier to negotiate with.

One evening the next summer we went to what you can call “a two man reef”. A narrow strip of gravel bottom and some big stones laying in line makes only room for two to fish. I had brought a bait caster rod with me because I maybe, but only maybe, would like to try The Bricklayers rig but I walked out immediately and started casting in the south bound current with my fly-rod and left the other rod on the beach. The Bricklayer stayed on the dry part of the spot rigging the sand-eel, it was becoming a new kind of ritual. When he finally was ready and waded out I told him that the trout wasn’t ready for anything yet and that they properly haven’t arrived for the nights feast. Then disaster struck like a lightning on the cloudless evening sky. In his second cast he caught a small trout released it casted again and hooked up with one that was a little larger and released that one as well. I was in shock.

Trying to sound composed I asked if I could borrow a rig and one of the sand-eels but to be honest it was with my teeth clinched and I properly sounded desperate nearly angry. The Bricklayer looked at me with a big smile and handed me both. “What are friends for?” he said still beaming. Now I took over his low mumbling and cursing while I tried to rig the sand-eel only getting nearly caught once by the mean little hooks. The first cast was the first take as well, a garfish messed up the rig and I had to retreat to dry ground to get it all fixed again. The second cast was a mess too, but that was because I casted for “king and glory”, way too hard. The Bricklayer told me to ease a little on the power and then things turned out much better. Soon I was standing releasing the first trout and it felt so good that I asked him if he wanted coffee. I was already on my way to the beach because I knew the answer.

Sitting down cups in hand we started to exchange our experience, mine was diminutive, with fishing in that very special way. As The Bricklayer said it’s all about letting the current do the work retrieving the lure very slowly. The sand eel will spin and wiggle like it’s a sick fish and make small waves in the water to notify the trout. I nodded not noticing getting contaminated with his madness, scary when you think of it. There was nearly no light when we returned to the water but luckily no wind either, we could hear the boils from the fish. A very small boil, like a piece of gravel landing in the water, made me turn around facing the beach. There only a few feet from the shore I could still see the weak traces on the surface. The sand eel landed in the right place and was immediately viciously attacked by a very angry trout.

A serious rush followed by a screaming sound from the reel made The Bricklayer look in my direction. “Fish?”, he asked and I answered with a “YES” trying to control the fish before it disappeared between the big stones. After a while I came to terms with it and it ended in my landing net. 22 inches of powerful trout is not a bad way to start a whole new way of fishing it makes you kind of addicted or to be honest “contaminated”. Since that memorable night I have become a mixed abuser bringing both my fly rod and one for the sand-eel. You’ll never know what’s on the trouts diet.

I won’t for now, keep passing on the dire news about the situation of the Atlantic and Baltic salmon, apart from passing on the link to this blog post from the Undefined Fly Fishing team:

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Lars MunkEmilie BjörkmanTed Logardt